The darkness was decreasing. The sun was about to rise. And the birds in the branches of nearby trees began chirping to announce the upcoming morning of the day. As soon as Shukru got up , he heard the sniffles of his wife, Tajo who was sitting beside him on the bed and her baby was in her lap.
" What made you cry early in the morning ? " Asked Shukru.
" The condition of my baby is getting worse. He is not going to convalesce from his illness. He did not sleep all night and so did I." Tajo said wiping the tears from her eyes.
" We have already spent the certain amount of money for his pill and potions. Now we have no money to go to the threshold of doctor ." Tajo added.
" Yes, we are under the clasp of poverty from which release seems impossible." Shukru said in a sorrowful voice.
Shukru was true , as his house was a fine specimen of poverty. The house was made of bamboo-pieces with a roof of dry and long hays beautifully interlocked by the strong braided fiber cords. The house had a large room in which this poor family used to live, sleep and eat. It had no veranda, no separate kitchen or bed room.The floor was always crammed with the utensils of usual life. In a corner of the home there was a fourposter bed. And thereunto was a shabby wrapped mosquito net. The griminess on their bed-sheet was enough to witness their impoverished lives. In their open yard was an oven beside a pyramid of cow- dung which Tajo used as fuel for cooking. It was their entire life that was already full of trials and tribulations. But now for some days they have been at the end of their tether since their only son, Razi had fallen ill and due to lack of money this married couple was unable to buy necessary medicines for their heart and soul, Razi.
Tajo put her Razi into cradle and swept the floor with a quite murmur of regret;
" Almighty has written all problems in my fate. The problems which are never going to be solved. O God! Why don't You send Your angel of death to anatch me away? If it is life, the death is better........."
Shukru who was nerby somewhere and brushing his teeth with neem twig , heard whtever she was muttering about her sorrowful life.
" Gnaw the bone that is fallen to thy lot."
Said Shukru to his waife.
" You always talk about fortune and taqdeer. You see this kind of fate is worse than death, don't you? But I want my Razi to live a long life. Save him somehow." Tajo said in a resenting tone.
"Razi is as beloved of you as mine. I will leave no stone unturned to cure him. Today is the day of Lakhwa Bazar. I will earn there some money by selling pumpkins. Then we shall carry our son to the doctor and he will have to get better." Shukru said.
Shukru is a green grocer, a poor vegetabe seller whose short income of veg-selling can hardly fulfil the necessities of life rather than extricate and banish him from poverty and helplessness. He and people like him have a world of trouble and suffering. The life of a vegetable man means no happiness. Whatever it means is poverty.
It was afternoon. The sun was getting hotter and hotter. Now Shukru was getting ready to go to a weekly market , Lakhwa Bazar to sell the vegetables. He packed his burlap sack with green pumpkins and stuffs. Shukru wounded a ragged towel round his head turban like which was slightly awry . This turban helps him to escape a litte from the draining burden of bumpkins. The sack of his pumpkins was more heavy than his own weight , so his wife helped him to lift his pile upto his head.
One has to cross two Kms on foot and six Kms by a local train to reach the market from where Shukru lives. Now the heft of pumpkins was on Shukru's head almost breaking his back. He and a seris of vegetable men came out from the squad , thier heads beneath thier loads and they are on their feet in a row like ants hurriedly towards Balam Railway Station fromwhere they will take their bundle of vegetables to Lakhwa Bazar by a local train.
If you have ever visited the country-sides you must know how dusty roads they have. The green grocers turned white as they followed the dusty way. The way was arboured by the network of mango trees. The wind was blowing with the clouds of dust and the dry leaves were falling from the branches. The road had no other traveller than some veg- sellers and hawkers from different villages. They did not stop their journy until they reached the station.
'Balam Railway Station ' was carved on the forehead of the main gate in English ,Hindi and Urdu in their respective order from top to bottom. Shukru and fellows made a heap of their loads in a side of the vestibule. The north wall of this entrance hall had a torn table-fare upside and a thousand dots of colourful spittles in bottom , as though it were the spittoon of the travellers. There was a small ticket counter which had a broken glass window in the vestibule. They took their valid tickets and lifted the loads up to their heads by the help of each other and entered the platform.
The platform had two railway tracks ,one small shelter just in middle , some broken cemented chairs , one or two hand pumps which had no handle to fetch water and a small controller room in which station master and some employees were busy paying their duties. The platform was full of hurly-burly. Hawkers and vendors were wailing to and fro incessantly; Tea, hot tea' ' Gram, fried gram' ' peanuts for time pass' . Porters dressed in red clothes were walking back and forth in search of their clients. These veg sellers crossed the crowd and put their packed sacks on a raised heap of broken bricks forth side of the platform where the second coach of a local train usually stays.
Shukru who was very anxious about his ailing baby , squatted down the ground near his sack of pumpkins. His crumpled and untidy clothes were damp with perspiration. He was lost in deep meditation about the serious condition of his son.
" I wll expend for the potions of Razi whatever I will earn today at market . No matter if we will have to famish two or three times."
Shukru said to himself.
Here at home, Tajo spread out a woven mat of date leaves under the guave tree in her yard and kept moping about the recovery of her baby longing for the prosperity with which the master of the family is due to come back till evening. She waited and waited looking at the door.
Here at the station Shukru too was waiting but for a local train amongst his co- workers. Meantime an RPF came cavorting to them. All of them ducked to see that monster policeman. He closed to them chewing a betel leaf. He ejected the amount of red saliva from his mouth with a rude noise. The splashes of his spittle rained on the bricks just beside where Shuru was sitting. Some of his saliva drops stuck in his dense mustache and some spotted upon his uniform near his chest.
" What have ye packed in yer sacks? So heavy luggages ye all carry in trains."
The policeman barked at them by injecting his club in thier sacks . It was his common technic of asking the vendors for the bribe . They all paid one by one a certain amount of penny to him to get rid of his bite else Shukru . The policeman twirled his club and attended to him.
" O stubborn dog! Do ye want to be arrested or ye are a relative of Rail Minister? Why ye are not paying?"
The policeman scolded Shukru.
" Sir , I am already indepted . I have no piece of coin to pay." Shukru said.
" So , how will ye go without paying the protection tax"
The piliceman blurted out.
While the bargaining was continue between them their respective train blowing it's wishtle arrived at the platform. The passangers packed themselves in the couches and the veg sellers uploaded their sacks but Shukru who was still under the clasp of the policeman couldn't.
" Sahebji! I will pay your all taxes some other time.Today I can't. Now let me go."
Shukru begged with folded hand.
"If ye don't have money to pay , ye won't be allowed to upload your sack in the train."
The policeman announced his judgement. The harshness was clear in the credence of his voice. Now the train began to blow it's wishtle as a sighn that it was ready to leave the platform.
" Sahebji! For the sake of God , please let me go or else my son will die of his illness."
Shukru dropped to the policeman's knees and requested. The train wishtled again and got to run.
" Go "
The policeman said in an unsympathetic manner and shuffled away. Some people saw all these from a distance in silence. A coolie helped Shukru to lift his load up to his head . Now the train was getting speed , Shukru started to step fastly beside the train. The pile of pumpkins created difficulty for him to get on a running train as it is always for any body. After ten or eleven steps he threw the packed sack of pumpkins inside the door of a coach , the sack settled in his intended place but Shukru himself collapsed under the gigantic wheels of the train. A blood curdling scream arose in the platform.Women and children began to cry and people crowded the venue of accident.
Stop! Stop! , Pull up the alarm chain!
The train stopped with a strict break and greater noise. The gory and bruised corpse of the poor green grocer was taken out of wheels. Shukru who was quite alive a few minutes ago was no more.
People burning in rage hunted the same policeman who caused Shukru's death but in vain. The silent murderer , the mean policeman had flown away.
Alas for the life of Tajo!
The unexpected and an accidental demise of Shukru made his wife alone a widow and his son an orphan. Hence a middle-aged Tajo was left destitude for the upkeep of her orphan baby . Defeated by the life she started begging at the same railway platform where her husband took his last breathe.
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Written by: Wasim Ahmad Alimi
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